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Floridians turn attention to Haiti
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Photo courtesy of SALVATION ARMY
Water is delivered to the Salvation Army’s Clinique Bethel in Haiti. Water and other basic necessities are in great demand as recovery efforts continue after a series of massive earthquakes hit the island on Tuesday.
Despite days of suffering through colder-than-normal weather and dealing with the devastating impact on marine life and crops, Floridians now are digging deep to help the people in neighboring Haiti.

Relief efforts by a variety of organizations began even before the aftershocks from a series of devastating earthquakes that hit the tiny island nation on Tuesday. The state of Florida pledged its help and requests are going out asking people to make monetary donations.

According to the latest estimates, as many as 50,000 were killed and countless injured when the magnitude-7 earthquake struck. Reports of destruction continue to come in as relief workers try to assist the people in need.

The American Red Cross announced on Thursday afternoon it is releasing an additional $9 million for earthquake relief, bringing its total commitment so far to $10 million to support relief efforts in Haiti.

Red Cross officials estimate that as many as three million people may be affected by the catastrophic earthquake.

Judy Pontiff, American Red Cross community relations branch manager in Pasco County, said Wednesday afternoon that the Red Cross already had people on the ground in Haiti setting up tents and other facilities. She said because many medical facilities had been destroyed, workers were setting up MASH-like facilities to try to help the injured.

She said water was a critical need.

“We’re trying to support the people anyway we can,” she said. “We need to take care of the living and the dead. Haiti is one of the poorest nations and what little they have is now destroyed.”

Salvation Army personnel from Florida, carrying extra generators, satellite phones and other supplies, flew out from Fort Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon. The plane was scheduled to land at a small regional airport near Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s main airport is not operational. Additional people were expected to travel to Haiti in the next few days.

The Salvation Army has been stationed in Haiti since 1950 and operates a children’s home, primary and secondary schools, and a hospital. All Salvation Army staff in Haiti is accounted for, but property has been badly damaged, officials said.

“The human tragedy and the humanitarian crisis is overwhelming,” said Lt. Col. Vern Jewett, the divisional commander of The Salvation Army in Florida. “We know that there are many people who have lost their lives and only in the next few days will it reveal the extent of the tragedy.”

Attorney General Bill McCollum sent the Florida Crisis Response Team to Florida's Haitian communities in Miami on Thursday. The teams will be working directly with Floridians who have family and loved ones in Haiti who were affected by Tuesday night’s devastating earthquakes, McCollum said.

"It is imperative that our state do everything possible to care for the needs of our Haitian citizens who are worried about their families and friends in Haiti," said Attorney General McCollum.

Gov. Charlie Crist joined officials from the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (Volunteer Florida) on Thursday in urging Floridians to donate to survivors of disasters, including those in Haiti.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by the devastating Haiti earthquake,” Crist said in a press release. “Now is a critical time for the people of Haiti, when monetary contributions are most needed. If you are in a position to contribute, I encourage you to work with an organization you trust.”

Information on identifying humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations and accepting cash donations for their efforts in Haiti is available by calling the Center for International Disaster Information at 703-276-1914, or by visiting

“Monetary contributions are crucial during disaster recovery efforts, such as those in Haiti,” said Interim Director of Emergency Management David Halstead.  “Donating judiciously will ensure that Floridians hard earned dollars are reaching the intended cause.”

The Governor also announced the activation of “Neighbors to the Rescue” through the Florida Disaster Recovery Fund.  The fund is Florida based and particularly aids in regional long-term disaster recovery efforts.

Donations can be made at or by calling 1-800-825-3786.

The American Red Cross has established an immediate way to contribute cash donations.  Text messaging ‘HAITI” from a cell phone to “90999” will automatically donate $10 to assist with relief efforts.

Donations can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013, or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at

The Salvation Army asks people who want to help those affected by the earthquake in Haiti to visit or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Monetary donations are needed to meet survivors’ most immediate needs.

Tampa Bay Newspapers is compiling a list of organizations accepting donations on behalf of Haiti rescue and recovery operations. Please send information about any local efforts to
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